SALINA, Kansas (AP) – Workers will begin taking samples next week from underneath 11 buildings in and around the former Schilling Air Force Base, where pollution in groundwater is threatening the water supply in Salina.
On Friday, a technician demonstrated for the media how holes will be drilled and a device inside the holes will collect soil gases to determine the level of pollution. Dragun Corp. of Farmington Hills, Michigan, was hired to investigate the contamination, with oversight by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
Plumes of pollution, primarily the solvent TCE, have been found in the soil and in groundwater that is moving toward city water wells. TCE was used to wash aircraft and weapons at the base, The Salina Journal reported.
Other testing done for the Salina Airport Authority was not part of the current project, said Matt Schroeder, senior environmental engineer for Dragun. However, the data could provide information that’s usable for Dragun’s investigation, he said.
The city of Salina, the airport authority, Salina School District and Kansas State University at Salina hired Dragun in August to investigate the contamination from TCE, or trichloroethylene, which can affect human health at high levels.
The first investigation at what is now Salina Regional Airport and Industrial Center started in 1993. Before the area can be cleaned up, a plan has to be mapped for the 4,000 acres and plumes that are 8,000 feet long, and testing of air, soil and groundwater must be completed.
After a cleanup plan is finished, the Salina government groups will ask the federal government for the money to clean up the area, said Martha Tasker, utilities director for the city of Salina.
The new levels of pollution will be compared to old levels, Schroeder said, which will help guide the cleanup plan.
The federal government is paying more than $8.4 million of the estimated $9.4 million cost to map the site, with the city of Salina paying the remaining $936,300. The goal is to complete the investigation within three years, said Tim Rogers, executive director of the airport authority.
The city will hire consultants to do the work and Dragun will oversee the cleanup, which “could last 20 to 30 years,” Schroeder said.